Just hours after a massive nationwide demonstration against gun violence led by student survivors of the Parkland school massacre in Florida, Pope Francis began Holy Week with a message for the young activists.
“The temptation to silence young people has always existed,” the Pope said in his Palm Sunday homily to tens of thousands of worshipers at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square.
“There are many ways to silence young people and make them invisible,” he continued. Many ways to anesthetize them, to make them keep quiet, ask nothing, question nothing. There are many ways to sedate them, to keep them from getting involved, to make their dreams flat and dreary, petty and plaintive.”
The Pope was marking the day that Christians celebrate Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem the week of his crucifixion, but he had more to say to today’s youth.
“Dear young people, you have it in you to shout. It is up to you not to keep quiet. Even if others keep quiet, if we older people and leaders, some corrupt, keep quiet, if the whole world keeps quiet and loses its joy, I ask you: Will you cry out?” he asked.
The youth in Vatican attendance spontaneously answered, shouting out as one: “YES!”
And in the United States, young people appear more ready to shout, act, and fight back against the insidious forces of the NRA and President Trump’s Republican Party. It has been decades since we have seen activism — and effectiveness — like we are seeing from today’s teenagers.
Before they are done, they will have changed policy, transformed our government, and saved lived. But let’s hope and pray, as Pope Francis does, that they won’t be done for a long, long time.